It’s a similar story throughout the City League. Soccer teams overwhelmed with young players, while lacking a lot of experience.
Kapaun lost 12 players from last year’s team; Northwest and East lost 10 each. Bishop Carroll and North lost their share of experience too.
“If you look around the league everybody’s lost a ton of seniors it seems like. It’s really hard to tell which team’s going to be where and which team’s going to step up in the city league,” Kapaun coach Alan Shepherd said.
Shepherd has been here before, and he knows what to tell his team.
His expectations are the same, which include winning the league, regionals and state. He tells the younger players to play like seniors, and he tells the team to focus on one game at a time, and learn from each one.
“Every year Coach Shepherd gets us up there, so I think we can take advantage of the younger teams. Our chances are definitely good to get first (in the City League),” Kapaun senior Braeden Marshall said.
The biggest loss for the Crusaders is Rhys Allen, who scored more than 30 goals last year. Marshall will fill in for some of those lost goals, but Shepherd is more concerned with the team’s defense right now.
“When you don’t have a high scoring offense, your defense wins games,” Shepherd said. “We’re going to try to be two-fold in the fact that we’re going to focus on our defense as a team and try to counter as much as we can, and counter quickly so that other defenses don’t have time to set up.”
Kapaun has six seniors, including defender Zach McGrath. Junior Jacob Le will anchor the defense with McGrath, and junior Grant Wells will join Marshall in the midfield. Junior Claudius Ciecko will play up top.
For Shepherd, Marshall and the other upperclassmen, this season isn’t just about meeting the same expectations as the previous years. Kapaun has finished in third place at the Class 5A state tournament for the past five years.
“Every other year we say ‘let’s get to state,’ but we never say win state, and this year I want to win state,” Marshall said. “We need to win state soon, and I think this is our year. Coach Shepherd is good at getting players to perform well.”
Kapaun opens its season against Hutchinson in the Titan Classic on September 1st.